Minnesota politician Jack Shepard failed to file his defamation lawsuit against the Huffington Post in time for it to be taken up by the Court. He intended to sue the Huffington Post for an article published back in 2010 that labeled him an “arsonist.” Mr. Shepard has never been convicted of any such crime.
Shepard said he repeatedly requested that the Minnesota prosecutor’s office drop the 1982 arson charge still open against him. In support of this request, he also filed a formal complaint, pro se, in June of last year. The charge brought against him at the time related to possible arson in his home. Mr. Shepard maintains his innocence and states that the charges are not believable, as there was no reason for him to set fire to his own home. Moreover, there was no insurance policy to cash in or any other monetary benefit to be gained. The arson charges have not been pursued by the prosecution. Mr. Shepard has never been convicted of any other crime.
Mr. Shepard moved to Italy and opened a dental practice. He claims that as a result of the article his business was ruined. He also feels strongly that if he is ever taken to court on the arson charges, it will be almost impossible for him to get a fair trial. “Millions of people believe the Huffington Post to be a credible source of information and just by reading the headline of the story they believe I am a convicted arsonist.”
The Post article also states that Shepard went to Italy not only to pursue his dental career, but also to possibly escape prosecution.
The Huffington Post article was first published in May of 2010, and the statute of limitation on a defamation suit in Minnesota is 2 years. The clock starts to run when a publication is first mass-distributed to the public. Subsequent printings do not extend the clock.
In his claim, Shepard states that the 2 year rule does not apply in his case since the Post updated the article with additional information. He also used his service in the military as a means to show cause to re-set the statute of limitation clock.
The case has been reviewed by a panel of 3 judges in the 8th Circuit, and the determination was that the case was past the statute of limitations. “We agree with the district court that none of his submissions indicated that he was on active military duty at any relevant time,” explained the Court.
In these types of cases, the early bird gets the worm, and it is important to get the right representation and file a defamation lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out.
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